I just got back to Buenos Aires from (and Ireland, and the US!) in time for our next group Tango Adventure–starting this coming Saturday with a fantastic group from the US, Germany/Romania and Australia.
During my travels through the US and Europe, I of course visited tango scenes–especially in Paris. Learning tango has changed the way I travel. Tango came into my life around the same time I discovered I have celiac disease and both discovered changed me; being celiac pushes me to find gluten-free restaurants when I travel and dancing tango pushes me to find milongas! Tango also has given me a way to meet new people wherever I go and also to discover places off the beaten path that I would probably not find otherwise.
On this recent trip to Paris–the second in 9 months–I discovered even more beautiful outdoor milongas so at this point I thought, I just have to wrap all this beauty up in a blog post to share with you. I was inspired by this couple and many more and the creativity of Paris’ tango organizers in reclaiming public space for dance. Oh la la.
Where you dance tango or not, visiting the outdoor milongas of Paris is a treat because tango is mesmerizing to watch and the milongas takes you to these beautiful social scenes. Probably no city has a more beautiful or romantic backdrop for tango.
Here are a few photos to tell you the story of what you might find in Paris if you are as lucky as I was.
An outdoor “milonga illegale” on the Passarelle de Simone de Beauvoir in the summer months. A passarelle is a footbridge. This one was called an illegal milonga because the organizers didn’t have a permit. But there really was no illegal activity, only music, dancing, and a bit of wine.
Milonga on the Quai de Seine by Jardin Tino Rossi (metro: Jussieau). In the summer months people gather along the Seine to dance tango–and also salsa, kizomba, swing and folkloric dance. These dance circles happen every night when it’s nice out. Getting to know the Quai de Seine scene convinced me that Paris turns into an urban paradise in the summer. Again, it doesn’t even matter if you dance. You can just bring wine, cheese, bread, crackers, and sit by the Seine taking in the scene. Eventually you might get pulled into one of the dance cultures.
Similarly in the summer months, and starting in April when the first warm weather of spring begins, people gather to dance by Place Trocadéro by the Eiffel Tower to dance. There are also lots of break-dancing street performers, protests and tourists taking in the Eiffel Tower of course.
The creative milonga orgnanizers of Paris invited people to bring cardboard to this outdoor milonga by the Parc de Belleville. The milonga overlooks a park where you will find many Parisians doing “picnic”–“picnic” is the social activity of the warm months. Down below I also found a group practicing capoeira, the Brazilian martial art-dance. By the Parc de Belleville there are also lots of hipster-chic cafes and bars, including a restaurant that’s 100% gluten-free.
To give credit where credit is due, I knew about many of these beautiful gatherings because my dear Parisian tanguero friend Eric tipped me off. And so now I tip you off too!
I know about these places because my tanguero friends in Paris tip me off but you can also find out about many outdoor tango events on this website: the Argentine Tango Calendar of Paris. It’s not hard to catch one of these beautiful events when the weather is warm. For example, the milongas by the Quais de Seine (by the side of the Seine) happen every night in the summer months by Jardin Tino Rossi.
[end of the night at the qa/qt meetup nyc at Ten Bells]
During my travels in the U.S. I made a quick stop in New York City.
In New York I hosted a quirkyalone/together meetup at Ten Bells, a wine bar on the Lower East Side (Thanks to Melissa Banigan for the suggestion–it was the perfect place.) I’ve been doing these meetups in California, New York and New England because I want to seize the opportunity to meet more of you and also share in person some ideas that I have percolating to serve the QA community.
I’m more convinced than ever that you quirkyalone/together readers are just fantastic. I’ve always felt that when I get to know you in online courses, by working one-on-one with you and in the Tango Adventure. Now with these stateside meetups I’ve seen how great it is to meet you and have you meet each other.
I thought I would tell you about who came because it was such a creative group with everyone working on interesting projects.
Caren Lissner came out from Hoboken. She is working on various writing projects – and her funny first novel, Carrie Pilby, has a quirkyalone protagonist. The novel has a movie version that is currently on Netflix. Her websitehas writing projects, funny and serious. She’s also @carenlissner on Twitter
Phoebe Blue is in a band with her partner (the’yre both very independent so quirkyalone/together fits them well!) The band is Phoebe Blue and the Make Baleaves. Check out their latest album Wordz of Wizdumb. Phoebe is part of the antifolk scene in New York and every February 14 she plays a show and gives a shoutout to Quirkyalone Day. She convinced us all that Staten Island is the place to be in New York City and a future quirkyalone/together meetup might take place there. See Phoebe rap here in the song Baby Talk.
Maggie Buford is the Education Director at Staten Island MakerSpace, “a non-profit workshop that helps artists, craftspeople, engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurs make their ideas come to life.” You can like SI MakerSpace on Facebook. Maggie lives on Staten Island too. Phoebe turned Maggie on to Quirkyalone at a key moment in her life and they have been sharing the book with people in their Staten Island community.
Petra Hanson is a two-time Quirkyalone/together Meetuper because she was able to attend both meetups in SF and NY. Petra is a former pop star in Japan (yup!), a blogger and a fashion designer, and she’s up to something important and needed with the B-Sider, a blog and storytelling series (and a podcast to come) about reinventing yourself past 40 for the B-Side of your life. Check out the B-Sider and be sure to sign up to for the podcast to hear the inspiring stories she’s curating in the storytelling series.
Almost two years ago I wrote a blog post called “Achieving Home” about the decision to move to Buenos Aires–at least for a while. At the time, I was asking myself, What am I devoted to? What matters most?
The answer: I wanted to focus on my memoir, and I didn’t find it possible to focus in the Bay Area because I was consulting to Silicon Valley CEOs while serving clients in my burgeoning coaching business and working on my book. It was too much to do at once.
I never really thought I would live in Buenos Aires forever, and so, over the last couple months I have been spending time in various places in the U.S. to consider whether I would want to move back.
For me decisions have become about feelings as much as thought. The pros and cons list can only take me so far–the feeling of “yes” at a certain point has to take over. So I was going to “feel” San Francisco and every place.
When I came back to the San Francisco Bay Area after spending 20 months away, I wasn’t surprised to see that new cafes had sprung up while other longtime businesses had disappeared. But wow, there was so much change! It’s a dizzying experience to come back to San Francisco because the area changes so quickly.
San Francisco is a very unique U.S. city. Republicans demonize San Francisco for being liberal. San Francisco is very progressive but actually people in the San Francisco Bay Area do many things are differently: sex, relationships, gender, food, work, drugs, and therapy. Trends start in California, then some go come nationwide–or worldwide.
San Francisco is a safe place to incubate new ideas because people are so open-minded and entrepreneurial. They’re willing to give new things a shot. Most big tech companies have their HQ there or nearby too: Google, Facebook, Apple. For better or worse, tech has changed the world. It’s no surprise to me that I birthed the quirkyalone concept in San Francisco, and that idea found an audience globally.
In the last 20 months, San Francisco seems even more intensely San Francisco. Maybe this is part of the polarization of the country as a whole post-Trump, each place becomes more intensely itself in reaction. The right gets righter, the left gets lefter.
In this post, I want to tell you about the trends that popped out to me with my new outsider eye: in San Francisco and other liberal enclaves around the U.S. When you’ve been away for a place you see it differently when you return.
Since many people say trends start in California these trends could be a preview of what comes next wherever you live.
Before talking about more fun and light-hearted trends, I can’t help but note the biggest trend in San Francisco: the absurdly high cost of housing in the wake of the ongoing tech and biotech boom. Which has led to a rather unfortunate urban dystopia.
The average cost for a 2-bedroom apartment in San Francisco in 2018 is $4,423, per rentjungle.com. In Oakland too the rents are nuts: an average rent for a 2-bedroom is $2,922. There are very few places to go if you lose your housing in Oakland or San Francisco.
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg donated $75 million to SF General Hospital to make it the Zuckerberg Hospital now but his company and all the other big tech companies have contributed to rent increases that have displaced so many people who made the city unique and great.
Before I left for the last 20 months, I was going on dates with engineer men who made the money to afford luxurious hotel-like apartments on destitute streets in San Francisco surrounded by homeless encampments. San Francisco has turned into a dystopia with too much luxury and destitute poverty right by its side.
Can the city wrest its soul back? The Bay Area always attracts dreamers who find a way through their social networks to survive but at the same time many people have left as a result of the tech boom. I assumed the prospects for a sustainable San Francisco were bleak—that the entire Bay Area would one day become like Manhattan, totally unlivable unless you are wealthy or working 70 hours a week for a tech company.
On this recent visit I was surprised to see that people are still fighting in San Francisco for affordable housing. A mayoral election is coming up after the sudden death of Ed Lee, a man many thought was too friendly to tech interests at the city’s expense. Can a new mayor take the city back to make it more humane? Is there still a sliver of hope for the Bay Area to remain a place with a diverse citizenry beyond the techies and their families?
Many of my friends hang on and the Bay Area will always have a big piece of my heart. Here’s to hoping for some real civic action on creating affordable housing and policies that work for the whole.
Here are just a few of my impressions on the changes that popped out at me after 20 months away.
— Kombucha is taking over the beverage section. Still don’t know what kombucha is? Have you visited the beverage section of your convenience store lately? Kombucha is a fermented beverage that many people love and many people think is gross. It’s a polarizing beverage, if you will. Kombucha is made by brewing cold tea, sugar with a slimy big mushroom called a “scoby.” With its probiotic content kombucha is good for the intestines. I love the effervescent kick of it.
Since I started drinking kombucha I’ve noticed the trend has gone mainstream. Pepsi Co. bought KeVita, “the leader in fermented probiotic beverages” and so now we have corporate kombucha.
Spotted in Beacon, NY. And here I really need a bang trim.
There are also lots of regional, artisanal local kombucha makers. In Beacon New York, an artsy town in the Hudson Valley I visited after San Francisco, I tried out this Calmbucha that looks just like beer in a mug. Yum.
All over the healthy cities of the U.S. you’ve got your local kombucha brands but on San Francisco Kombucha seems to really have taken over. Kombucha used to be a fringe thing but now there are just sooooooo many brands and flavors. You had mystic mango, tantric tumeric and gingerade for a long time but now you have watermelon basil. That somehow says it all for me: watermelon basil flavor kombucha is a crossover moment.
spotted in San Francisco
By the way, kombucha has not made its way to Buenos Aires. Instead, water-based kefir is taking off in the Paris of the South.
—Avocado toast is the hot new trend. I didn’t actually witness any avocado toast but my friends told me it’s the hot trend at many cafes.
—More 100% gluten-free restaurants. I have celiac disease so eating gluten-free isn’t negotiable. I was always surprised by how few 100% gluten-free restaurants there were in the San Francisco Bay Area–there seemed to be more in Buenos Aires (where no one eats gluten-free as a trend). This time I noticed far more totally gluten-free eating establishments, which is fantastic because that means we celiacs can let down our guard and not have to cross-examine the wait staff about cross-contamination. Relief! Here’s a list of 17 SF GF spots. I tried Kitava and As Quoted, and especially adored Kitava. Here’s hoping the 100% GF trend spreads nationwide to more restaurants.
—Recreational cannabis is very available. When I left Oakland, there was already a lot of pot in the Bay Area–the whiff of it could often be smelled from my apartment. If you had a medical card, you could order a delivery service (Uber for pot) to bring all varieties of “flower” to your door.
Last yearCalifornia voters legalized recreational cannabis and made it even more seamless to get pot. Now anyone can walk in off the street without a medical marijuana card to buy cannabis.
During my visit I took BART downtown to see a fortysomething Silicon Valley friend who now works at LinkedIn where the average age of employees is 27 (that’s another thing, SF feels so young!). On my walk from downtown BART to LinkedIn I noticed the Flower Power dispensary on the way.
Flower Power serves a daily menu of edibles such as cannabis chocolate, gummy bears, chocolate covered blueberries, flowers (of many indica and sativa varieties) as well as “extracts” and “pods” of cannabis. Don’t know what the extracts and pods are? I don’t either.
The location of Flower Power is wild: just steps from the BART train and in the middle of all the hot tech startups. It’s so convenient to get pot on the way to work or home. The woman working the counter told me she served employees from Lyft and Uber that morning.
When Trump was elected I wondered if more people would smoke more pot to check out of the pain of reading such horrible headlines. Maybe that’s happening.
—Microdosing LSD as the new coffee. OK, wait, what? So not only does everyone have easy access to cannabis gummy bears, a lot of tech types are microdosing LSD! I was having coffee with a techie friend he told me about the latest Silicon Valley trend for productivity and creativity.
Microdosing LSD means taking very small doses of the psychedelic. Back in the 60s, Timothy Leary days, people took 250-500 micrograms. Microdosing people now take 10 milligrams to be more effective at work. My friend described these users as quite square tech types: their goal is less mind expansion, more success.
There is no research on the long-term effects or whether LSD is addictive at a microdose. Are they also microdosing LSD in New York on Wall Street?
-Trans-pronoun awareness. There are a lot of linguistic trends that I’m not exposed to because I’m faraway in Buenos Aires. One of them is this new convention of using pronouns to identify your gender, or your refusal to identify with the gender binary of men and women.
While I was visiting I went with a friend to pick up her son at a San Francisco school. I was shocked to see all the teachers had their little pictures posted with their names and preferred pronoun: “she,” “he” or “they.” I thought if you look like a woman or a man it was assumed we call you “she” or “he” but it seems like the trans awareness is all about destabilizing assumptions about everyone’s gender.
Later I talked with two friends who are in law school and a PhD programs at CUNY (City University of New York). For them, it had become not-so-unusual in the classroom setting for people to announce their desired pronoun.
Is this level of trans sensitivity in schools a trend of just New York and San Francisco? I’m not quite seeing it in Texas or Montana.
–Feminist desk signs and other gift products. I was shopping for a friend’s birthday gift and couldn’t help but notice how many feminist products there were in gift shops: everything from memorial books from the Women’s March to “Boss Lady” signs to put on your desk.
spotted in San Francisco
Just five years ago it still seemed edgy to call yourself a feminist. Post-Trump and Harvey Weinstein, all of a sudden feminism seems downright trendy.
I bought a Boss Lady desk sign for myself and a friend because I thought, hey, that’s fun and inspiring. I wanna be a Boss Lady.
Later when I traveled on the East Coast in Beacon and Brooklyn, New York, I noticed even more feminist products now that my eye was attuned to them: a tote bag, a craft product for kids, and even more desk signs!
spotted in Brooklyn
spotted in Beacon, NY
Spotted in Beacon, NY
Commercializing feminism could result in watering down the movement — that’s what Jessa Crispin warns against in Why I Am Not A Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto but I have a hard time getting worked up over feminist tote bags. If girls are learning to make craft products to smash the patriarchy instead of playing with Barbie that’s probably a good thing.
Now that we have a pussy-grabber in the White House and the #metoo movement it’s not surprising that we have more Lady Boss signs for sale.
Here’s to hoping those lady boss signs take off as a trend everywhere. In Congress. In big companies, in auto plants, in academia. I fully support that lady boss trend.
What trends are you spotting? Let me know what you see in the comments.
Sasha + Elizabeth at the Quirkyalone Providence Meetup
Sasha’s mom and Elizabeth discuss tricky nuances of online dating using Quirkyalone as a jumping-off point
“It’s that feeling of not having to explain yourself.”
“It’s that feeling of finding your tribe.”
“I felt a lot of shame–I had a lot of shame about things not working out the way I expected.”
These were just a few of the things said and shared at the absolutely lovely quirkyalone/together meetups we had at Cafe La Boheme in San Francisco and at India Restaurant in Providence over the last month.
I’m doing a series of Quirkyalone meetups while I’m in the U.S. from Buenos Aires.
New York: you’re up next! Be sure to get on thenewsletter to get the details for the New York City meetup.
In the Bay Area, women joined us from Modesto, Richmond, Mill Valley, Oakland and San Francisco. One woman traveled two hours to be there.
In Providence, we had people from all over southeastern New England.
Quirkymen: you’re welcome too. This San Francisco meetup happened to be all ladies but in Providence, Rhode Island men joined our meetup.
For those who are new to the concept, Quirkyalone isn’t about being single actually–it’s about staying true to yourself and not settling.
At the SF meetup we really dug into our personal stories. Some women had been married multiple times, some had never lived with a man. It doesn’t matter what your romantic history is, it’s still easy to feel like you’ve done it wrong in some way in this society if you are not fulfilling the “ideal.” No matter what our unique histories are, we have a lot in common to work through to get to a place of inner peace and self-acceptance.
There can be a great feeling of isolation and “what’s wrong with me?” if you haven’t found a partner and all your friends have. Finding community is always key in the journey.
Everyone who came was creative in some way. In San Francisco, we had a former Japanese pop star, a fiction writer, and a singer-songwriter with us at the table. In Providence, we a had a Journey Dance teacher–one of my favorite new dance modalities.
Everyone wants more community–online and off. It’s so important to cut the isolation and meet others who share your values and are in your situation, online and off. There are so many of us grappling with the same questions.
This meetup was a kind of percolation for some ideas I’ve been brainstorming about how I can serve more of you with a quirky online support to help you stay on the path of self-compassion and self-acceptance; to be OK with being single while also being open to relationship; and to nourish your relationship with yourself and your happiness.
I was able to “focus-group” the ideas with the people who came. I got a lot of great feedback from them–so stay tuned.
Laronda and Lisa who came to the Bay Area meetup are taking the reins to organize a BAY AREA quirkyalone/together chapter with some ongoing meetups. They are thinking simple events, from meeting in a cafe to a walk to one member showing others his or her neighborhood.
They’ll share with me what they learn organizing these meetups and later we’ll be able to share those lessons with you.
So two important things . . .
IF YOU ARE IN THE BAY AREAand want to be part of this free BAY AREA meetup group, send an email with your name and email address and I will share your contact info with the organizers Laronda and Lisa.
IF YOU ARE NOT IN THE BAY AREAstay tuned.
Stuff is happening! Stay tuned on the newsletter to find out what comes next. 😉
photo by Natalia Brasil / Cura Fotagrafia / taken at our Self-Love and Sensuality Women’s Retreat in Florianopolis, Brazil, November 2017
Today is International Women’s Day and I want to take this opportunity to recognize the fierceness of women who don’t settle.
–The women who left relationships that offered security but didn’t allow them to be who they are and won’t tolerate anything less
— The women who want a big love with a true equal and are willing to wait for it beyond the socially marked “expiration dates” of 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, on
— The women who prioritize their own self-development
— The women who slog through online dating and stay positive! (And/or take breaks knowing Tinder, GreenSingles, and Happn will be there when you come back.)
— The women who want hot sex and aren’t afraid to own or explore their sexuality
— The women who want respect and equal pay at the workplace, who negotiate for themselves, and support other women to get fairplay too
— The women who are speaking up in the #metoo movement about sexual violation and the women who are working on their own healing privately and quietly
— The women who dare to create their own #happilyeverafter whether they are with a man or not
Not settling is not just about not settling for less than what you really want in love or in bed. Not settling is also not settling for a president or a legislator who disrespects women or a boss who routinely harasses women on the team. Not settling is about being in alignment with yourself and your own principles. . . it’s also about not settling in your relationship with yourself!
So it’s with a special bow to this non-settling spirit that I wish you a happy International Women’s Day!
A big shoutout to the men who truly support this kind of questioning, open-minded, needle-pushing women. We need you. I hope you men get that feminism is a big tent. Feminism is a movement to liberate all of us from confining gender roles and any residual idea that women are inferior to men.
PS. A little bit of levity about not settling: A very dear male quirkyalone friend shared this link with me. If you want some inspiration about not settling in online dating, follow this Instagram account idratherdiealone.
Today is Quirkyalone Day! Please do something excellent for yourself!
We’re throwing a Quirkyalone Day Meetup/Lovevest in Providence, Rhode Island tonight, and I’ll be organizing a Quirkyalone/together Meetup in the Bay Area February 27.
I’m sharing the details for these events in my newsletter, so if you haven’t signed up for the newsletter yet, be sure to sign up now! That’s how you will get the down-low on all quirkyhappenings.
Happy Quirkyalone Day! xo Sasha
PS. Here’s a throwback to a Quirkyalone Day party in San Francisco in 2005. I started Quirkyalone Day in 2003 as a feel-good alternative to Valentine’s Day focused on self-love that’s available to everyone, single or partnered, and the beat still goes on today.
LIke many women in the U.S., when I was in my late thirties I started to get very tired. I worried that I might have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Sometimes when I took a walk for two miles I needed four hours on the couch to recover, and even taking a shower and getting dressed sometimes exhausted me. I visited all the Western medicine specialists and paid to see a naturopath. I already had been diagnosed with celiac disease so I already needed to eat gluten-free. My food options narrowed to a paleo diet. I ate a strict paleo diet for six months. Even then, nothing worked.
After nearly a year of spending all my energy on my health, and really not having anything to show for it in terms of improvement, I asked myself: what makes life worth living? What do I enjoy? The answer was tango in Buenos Aires.
My gut told me the cure would be tango in Buenos Aires. That intuition paid off. I moved to Buenos Aires for eight months in 2012 and my condition improved; my energy came back.
That’s my personal story of physical tango healing, and there are many. The untold story of tango is a story of tango healing. Many people get into tango because they are going through a break-up or divorce. Tango doesn’t only heal a broken heart. Tango has been shown heal or give relief to the effects of Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, loneliness and depression.
Tango doesn’t only help physical conditions. Tango can also help with complex body-mind somatization of past trauma.
When we experience trauma the trauma often gets left in our bodies as a kind of residue. If we don’t shake off the trauma the effects stay and our somatized as illness or even as stooping posture. It’s very hard to heal something so deeply ingrained as a style of interrelating with the world through your body. Posture, how you stand, how you carry yourself, and how you feel yourself in a relationship: these are all very profound habits and ways of relating to others and the world.
Tango can help you become more aware of how you relate to yourself and to the world–and give you a path of healing and transformation on the dance floor and off.
In this talk, I speak about the Healing Power of Tango and why and how tango heals. . . physically and psychologically. I talk about:
–tango as a mirror to see your patterns in relationships
–tango as a tool to build confidence and attitude and improve your posture
–tango as a tool for healing trauma
Do you have a story of healing through tango? I’d love to hear it. Please share as a comment or send an email.
Do you want to experience the healing power of tango? We teach you about the healing power of the tango embrace and the tango posture in our group Tango Adventures. You can also learn about these lessons of tango as a path of transformation working one-on-one with Sasha, pairing your coaching with a Tango Adventure or by working with Sasha and learning tango in your home city. Click HERE to learn more about the group Tango Adventure and Sasha’s tango for life coaching.
While I was in Paris for three weeks this July and August, I found often that Parisians were not that aware of the beauty surrounding them. Of course I was on vacation; they were living real life. They deal with the everyday challenges of living in a big city–trains that stall mid-ride, long commutes, and high rents for tiny apartments.
But still the beauty of Paris is so pas mal. (So not bad.)
One night I joined some friends–new and old–by the river Seine at an outdoor milonga (a milonga is a place where people dance tango). As is the custom in Paris in the summer, we gathered for a picnic–wine, cheese, and also potato chips. At times I felt overwhelmed, flooded by beauty even, of the Seine, the boats floating by, the Haussman-era architecture, and the people dancing outside. The Parisians around me, as much as I enjoyed their company, seemed a bit eh about the scene.
My American friend Alexa who has been living in Paris for the last year had invited me. I turned to her and said something along the lines of, “These people don’t even see how beautiful Paris is!” She laughed, “It’s a metaphor for life, we’re all living in Paris but we don’t even see it.”
Isn’t that true?
The eye can become accustomed to beauty. The “hedonic treadmill” theory posits that human beings return to a set point of happiness no matter what positive or negative events happen to us. Would I be happier if I lived bathed in the beauty of Paris? Would I even see it if I lived there? I don’t know. I would be curious to find out.
Not everyone who comes to Paris finds the experience so blissful. Some people come to Paris and get Paris Syndrome. Paris Syndrome mainly afflicts Japanese people who come to Paris with larger-than-life romantic fantasies of artists wearing berets and high-fashion models. Tourists who suffer from Paris Syndrome get disappointed by the reality of a sprawling, chaotic, extremely multicultural city not matching their hopes–they may even enter a state of psychological turmoil of anxiety, depression, irritation and prejudice. There are doctors who treat patients for Paris Syndrome!
You need not suffer from Paris Syndrome, nor act like Paris is just blah. The difference, I believe, is the willingness to be a flaneur.
To be a flaneur is to wander the city streets, to see and be seen, and there is no city better for wandering than Paris. The concept of the “flanerie” (the wander) was itself created in Paris by Charles Baudelaire. You can certainly go to museums like the Louvre in Paris, but the city itself is a museum: all you have to do is walk at random. Parisians also call this a “balade” (a “stroll”) and “balader” is an important verb.
To discover the beauty of Paris it doesn’t hurt to meet Parisians. You can go on a solo balade (stroll), as a solitary flaneur, or you can balader with a friend or lover. You can also meet people for strolls through couchsurfing.org (join the Paris group and look for their events–the Paris couchsurfing organizers are quite nice and friendly) and look on meetup.com. I joined a Paris Shut Up and Write and went on a Hidden Places of Paris tour. If you’re online dating, go ahead and change your location to Paris! Who knows? You’ll either meet the love of your life or maybe you’ll find a tour guide, or at least someone who gives you a different perspective on the City of Light.
Speaking French helps but it’s by no means necessary. Most Parisians speak English. I found Parisians to be friendlier than their reputation and made new friends.
By the way I also had some really terrible things happen to me in Paris during those three weeks. On my very last night, I was a little too carefree with my purse at an outdoor milonga by the Seine and someone stole my purse–containing, my airbnb keys, my phone, my wallet (credit cards and driver’s license, and an amazing G-spot vibrator that I had just bought at a very cool sex shop Passage du Désir in Le Marais!) while I was dancing. The horror!
I will definitely have to get back to Paris soon to repurchase that stolen G-spot vibrator!
I also experienced seven instances of sexual harassment in one day in one of the edgier neighborhoods that I stayed in. Paris is cracking down on sexual harassment now and Parisian women are marching to call attention to the problem.
It was not all La Vie En Rose.
Still, though, I loved this time in Paris and I dream about returning. It is absolutely clear to me that Paris in summer is a kind of heaven. If I don’t live in Paris in this lifetime, I want to spend more summers in Paris.
Here are some hidden – or not so hidden – things I think are great in Paris. I found these off-the-radar spots by being a flaneur (wandering at random), checking out events I found online, and making new friends.
Paris in summer is exuberant with picnics! Picnicking might be a spring and fall activity too. Check the many parks.
In my first week I joined two picnics by the Seine and the park Buttes-Chaumont, and by the time I had left I had been part of at least seven picnics all over the city! When in my life have I picknicked so much?
The picnic phenom is great:
1) it’s a universal way of being social; everyone is outside, gathering with friends by the Seine, canals, or in parks
2) it’s cheap and easy, you just pick up food in a Franprix or another supermarket
3) Rosé (rosé seems to be the official wine of summer picnics).
I joined this tour of “Lieux Insolites” (“Hidden Places”) of Paris, which I found on Meetup.com group “Promenades et Randonees.” Every weekend the organizer Christophe gathers people by a metro stop in an arrondissement and shows them unexpected places in Paris. It costs 5 euros. We walked around and discovered a Russian Orthodox church, where we learned about Russian immigration to Paris after the Bolshevik Revolution; a Turkish bath; and the Cimetiere de Montparnasse (where we saw the graves of Serge Gainbourg, Sartre and de Beauvoir, and Charles Baudelaire).
Above is the grave of Sartre and de Beauvoir in Cimetiere de Montparnasse. Note the lipstick kisses on the grave. The grave was also covered with Paris metro tickets left as a memorial to the writers.
The tour was not only great for seeing hidden spots of the city, it was also great for meeting people–Parisians and visitors alike. The niceness level of the group was very high. I met a woman from Georgia (the country) studying political science in Paris and we have stayed in touch.
During the summer months (and I believe starting in the spring) you will find people dancing along the Seine every night of the week by the Jardin Tino Rossi (metro: Jussieau).
Every night of the week people gather in a series of circular areas lined by steps (like the above) to dance kizomba, tango, salsa, swing, lindy hop, folkloric dance, and more. It’s stunning.
If you wanted to you could go from circle to circle dancing different dances.
Most of the activity seems to be pure social dancing but I also saw a few dance classes. At the same time, people also gather nearby just to picnic, and the Paris Bla-Bla Language Exchange meets every Thursday (and in the summer in this general area) for their picnic language exchange. So you can also go just to enjoy some wine, socialize, and watch the dancing.
I stayed in Belleville for my first week in Paris and adored the neighborhood. It’s the perfect multicultural, friendly mix, so friendly I couldn’t believe that I thought Paris was not friendly before. Walking the Rue de Belleville is a fun urban flaneur experience as you move through ethnicities. If you make it to the Metro Jourdain area of Belleville (a very charming spot) you absolutely must visit this great bra store which I wrote an entire blog post about.
I found La Reciclerie completely “par hasard”–randomly. It’s really quite extraordinary. La Reciclerie is in the 18th arrondissement right by the metro and it’s quite possibly the most amazing establishment I have ever randomly stumbled on in my flaneries (wanders). Why?
The Reciclerie is a cafe, a restaurant, a workshop/atelier for repairing electronics and household goods, a garden where they grow the food they serve at the restaurant, and an urban farm and this all overlooks the old train tracks of the old train that circled Paris. It’s also a workshop space. While I was there, an “atelier de conversation” – conversation workshop – to help immigrants practice French was going on. Sunday was a sophrologie workshop – which I gather is about the art of relaxing the body. If I do the Quirkyalone Paris Adventure surely we will come here.
Whether you dance tango or not, it would be well worth your time to drop by the metro Trocadero by the Eiffel Tower to watch the tango. I don’t know that I ever saw a more romantic backdrop for watching people dance tango. The most romantic dance in the most romantic city. It’s well worth the trip.
The Trocadero milonga was happening nightly in the summer when I was in Paris last. You can find out about tango events including the nightly Trocadero milonga here.
The soldes are the sales, and the sales come at quite specific times in Paris in January and July. These are the times to shop! I got those gorgeous silver sandals during the summer sales at a great price.
Buttes-Aux-Cailles is a quiet hilltop neighborhood in the 13th, a kind of isolated village, that’s very charming and little known and very worth your while for the stroll. Here’s a walking tour itinerary.
The parks in Paris are the best of any city I know. Jardin Luxembourg and Buttes Chaumont are my favorite parks. Life is better when you can sit on one of these extremely comfortable publicly provided chairs. Such a zone of peace.
Joe Yang, a tango teacher from Madison, Wisconsin, recently interviewed me for Joe’s Tango Podcast. Joe’s podcast is for people who are who are starting to fall in love with the dance of tango and want to learn from different experts in the field. I share a bit of my own tango story and talked about my work combining tango and life coaching through the Tango Adventure and with my one-on-one coaching clients who take up tango. We talked about my tango writing too (right now, I’m deep at work on my memoir Wet, which is a journey of healing the effects of trauma through sensual experiences, so tango plays a big role in the story).
We literally talked about all things tango. Joe started off asking me the moment/s I knew I wanted tango would be a big part of my life, and we got to talking about advice I would give beginning dancers. I’ll give you a little teaser with an answer to that last question: RELAX! Relaxing and being in the moment is the most important piece of advice I would give. How do you relax? Many people want the answer to be a glass of wine. There is a better answer. Surrender to the hug.
Here’s some of the other stuff we talked about:
The transformative power of tango–tango has always been about way more than tango for me, and that’s how I teach it. Tango really is a mirror for our lives and how we operate in relationships
Advice for beginners to enjoy a milonga
The emotional roller coaster of being a beginning tango student (at least it was for me)
Tango teaching philosophies: when you let go of being perfect, learning tango can be fun and easy
The embrace! The essence of tango is the embrace; if you want to feel a true tango embrace, that’s a big reason to try tango in Buenos Aires
Tango communities–what makes them good and what makes them snobby (the dark side of tango)
Healing through tango! Tango’s healing power is really important to me. I’ve been exploring this topic for myself over the last seven years and using tango as a tool with my clients to heal the effects of sexual trauma in particular.
I shared a lot about the Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires too! If you’re interested in joining us and want to learn a bit more, definitely give this podcast a listen. I explain to Joe how I first got the idea to start the Tango Adventure from my own experience of healing through tango in many ways. I wanted to share the knowledge I’ve collected through a week-long immersion in Buenos Aires.
With us, you can learn the true essence of tango that goes beyond steps and in many ways you just can’t learn that anywhere else but Buenos Aires.
Here’s the podcast to give it a listen!
Listen on iTunes: http://apple.co/2eOGdlc
Or Soundcloud: http://bit.ly/2zYANMk
Or Stitcher: http://bit.ly/2xNrUWA
Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Her work as a writer, coach and movement-builder has been featured everywhere from NPR and the New York Times to CNN and Vogue.
In her well-loved newsletter going to thousands who identify with "quirkyalone," Sasha is the voice for people who don't want to settle--in any area of life.
In her coaching practice, Sasha helps smart, successful women (and men) get clear on their goals and achieve them while always helping her clients focus on core issues such as self-worth.
Through her Tango Adventures, she helps people go deep in the authentic tango scene of Buenos Aires while using tango as a mirror and a metaphor to help each person discover what tango has to teach them.